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Espiritu Santo

Better known simply as Santo, this is Vanuatu's largest island and one of its most enjoyable. It doesn't have quite the activities and infrastructure of Port Vila, but it does have world-class diving, some excellent upmarket island resorts and some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches in the archipelago.

Espiritu Santo hides many of its secrets away from its small capital, Luganville, but there are plenty of tour operators to help get you to every corner of the island. Big attractions include the Millennium Cave, snorkelling or diving over dumped WWII memorabilia, the stunning east coast beaches and inviting blue holes. If you scuba dive, don't miss the SS President Coolidge, one of the world's most accessible wrecks.

Fanafo, north of Luganville, was where, in 1963, charismatic Jimmy Stevens formed the Nagriamel movement. Then, on 27 May 1980, eight weeks before national independence, he and his supporters staged a coup known as the Coconut Rebellion. Armed mainly with bows and arrows, they occupied Luganville and proclaimed Santo’s independence, calling their new country Vemarana. However, the new nation collapsed with Stevens’ arrest on 1 September.

Inland, villages are isolated and the locals totally self-sufficient. Southwest Santo has Vanuatu’s highest mountains: Mt Tabwemasana (1879m), Mt Kotamtam (1747m), Mt Tawaloala (1742m) and Santo Peak (1704m), all of which can be climbed with local guides.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Espiritu Santo.